Well, I gotta say, I’ve been having great fun with my snazzy new wireless keyboard. In fact, I’m on the bus right now, hacking up this blog entry, keyboard in my lap, TX battery slowly bleeding away. Pretty darn cool, I think.
But the real bonus is the new capabilities this keyboard affords. One of the things I’ve always been curious to try is Palm development. However, the barrier to entry is pretty darn high… getting a devkit working on Linux is a non-trivial procedure, to say the least, which is saying a lot, given I hand-rolled my first GBA development kit.
The other option had always been an onboard environment of some description. And there are a few that are workable. There’s HotPaw Basic, which provides a fairly complete Basic environment right on the Palm. ‘course, it is Basic… shudder. Then there’s LispMe, which is a reasonably full-featured Scheme implementation. Unfortunately, it has stabilities issues on the TX which ruled it out. Additionally, I came across OnBoard C, which is actually a C development environment which runs right on the Palm, and generates standalone applications. ‘course, it’s C… which provides me with a little more hanging rope than I would like.
And then I discovered PP Compiler. Like OnBoard C, this is a full development environment for the Palm which generates 68k or ARM applications. However, this is a Pascal compiler. IOW, I get a reasonably powerful, and safe programming environment that allows me to write, well, essentially anything I want! It also appears to have a fairly lively user community and developers who are actively maintaining the project.
‘course, the next question is, now what? Honestly, I have no idea. But it is pretty cool. :) And at least it gives me another justification for purchasing this keyboad…
So, after what I consider to be a reasonably successful Christmas (particularly the turkey, which Lenore executed perfectly… if you’ve ever considered brining a turkey, do it), we decided it would be amusing to go out and brave the boxing day crowds and do a little shopping… and after many hours, we didn’t really come out with much, truth be told.
However, I did decide to splurge a little and bought myself one of Palm’s fancy universal wireless keyboards. It’s really pretty impressive: it comes as a small rectangular device that’s slightly bigger than my TX. However, unfolded, it presents a very compact, but quite functional keyboard. The keys are full-sized (very similar to what you’d find on a laptop keyboard), and the action is very nice… they have a nice click without too much or too little resistance. Pretty snazzy, I gotta say.
Of course, I had no choice but to write up a little blog entry on the thing, hence what you are (presumably) reading right now. That’s right, this entire thing was hacked up in pedit on my snazzy keyboard. Even cooler, I hacked up an email gateway for my wiki, so it was simply a matter of emailing this entry to myself and voila! it’s posted to my blog! Nifty, eh?
So as I mentioned previously, now that I have my MythTV system rolled out (fairly successfully, I think), I’ve found myself playing a lot of old games that I haven’t touched in years. Sure, in the past, I’ve been able to play these games on a computer, but there’s nothing quite like being able to experience them in my livingroom on a proper (nice and fuzzy) TV with a decent joypad. However, the joypads I’m using (are nice cheap USB Logitech pads) don’t do a good job of replicating that true Arcade Experience (tm).
Enter XGaming. These guys are in the business of building arcade-grade gear that can be interfaced with a PC, for use primarily with MAME. XGaming have been in the biz for quite a while, marketing their X-Arcade stick, a control built with arcade-grade joysticks and buttons, mounted on a nice, heavy base. Very nice. And at $129, their Dual Joystick, which sports two full control sets mounted on a single platform, is an absolute steal.
But then evil-Jeremy, my Go playing friend and source of generally bad financial influence, pointed me at Treyonics Controls. Like XGaming, they build arcade-grade PC-compatible sticks, but their Centurion really stands out. Why? Well, it sports 4 more buttons than the XArcade, which is nice, but more importantly, it is equipped with a heavy-duty trackball and dial! Finally, I can play Arkanoid the way it was meant to be played, right in the comfort of my own livingroom! Further, their sticks are 4/8-way switchable, meaning you can play games like Donkey Kong, which used a 4-way stick, on proper, authentic controls, while still being able to use the 8-way stick for high-twitch games like Street Fighter II. My only fear is that they don’t currently have prices available… I can’t imagine it’s cheap (though damned tempted, whatever the price :).
Of course, all this got me thinking: what if, one day, I could build a proper arcade cabinet? And that’s when I found arcadecontrols.com. These guys provide all the information and directions you need to build your own cabinet from scrap or pre-built parts, including explanations of various materials and technologies, wiring diagrams, tips and tricks, and links to part suppliers. Could make for a very cool project once I get my media room done…
So, as part of the MythTV project, I decided it’d be fun to install a rather large collection of video games from the old days so that I could play them on a proper TV with a decent joystick. The result, I’ve played more video games in the last couple weeks than I’ve played in the last six months.
In particular, I rediscovered an old Sega Master System classic that I had, in fact, completely forgotten about: Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Actually, more accurately, I’d mis-remembered this game, attributing it’s various qualities to a bunch of other games, not realizing that this was, in fact, the title I was thinking about the whole time!
Now the first two installments in the Wonder Boy series are fairly straight forward platformers. You progress through levels, defeating boss characters while building up armor, weapons, items, and so forth, until you defeat the final big baddie in the game. Pretty standard stuff. The Dragon’s Trap starts off similarly. In fact, it begins precisely where Wonderboy in Monsterland ends off, and has the player actually defeat the last boss from the WBML as his first task (though, obviously, it’s much easier this time), after which Wonder Boy is cursed and transformed into Lizard-Man. Wonder Boy must then find the Salamander Cross in order to break the curse.
Similar to WBML, the levels are of a 2D platform-style, but unlike it’s predecessor, the player is given freedom to roam about the game world. As the player progresses, boss characters are defeated and Wonder Boy is tranformed into other characters, each with his own unique power:
- Lizard-Man - Can breathe fire for extended attack range.
- Mouse-Man - Can climb walls made of mouse blocks.
- Pirhanna-Man - Can swim freely in water.
- Lion-Man - Swings his sword in an arc, allowing him to destroy higher or lower blocks.
- Hawk-Man - Has the ability to fly.
And, of course, Hu-Man (believe it or not, it’s actually spelled that way in the manual). Each of these special powers then makes it possible to access new areas of the game that were previously unavailable. For example, Mouse-Man may make it possible to climb a wall previously unscalable. The result is something similar to Super Mario 64, where regions of the game may be visited and revisited to discover new secrets previously unavailable.
In addition, Wonder Boy has the opportunity to collect new weapons and armour as the game progresses, each of which provide varying levels of attack or defensive capability, as well as various special powers. Occasionally, these items are found, however most are acquired by spending gold, which is collected by killing enemies.
The result is a game which combines the elements of a 2D platformer with something akin to an RPG, providing great replay value. This is particularly true because the difficulty level of the game ramps up very smoothly. While consistently challenging, the game doesn’t become too easy or too frustratingly difficult.
To top all this off, for a game published in 1989, the game looks quite good. The sprites are big and colourful, and the big boss characters are gigantic! The soundtrack is also rather catchy, although it could probably grate on some people’s ears after a while. :)
So if you’re feeling the need to take a stroll down memory lane, I highly recommend this game. Though, be warned, it’s pretty addictive. Just ask Lenore.